Thursday, August 21, 2014

Americano’s New Chef, Josua Perez, Promises “Fun, Vibrant Dining Experience”

By Emma Krasov, photography by Emma Krasov.
 
Americano Restaurant & Bar at Hotel Vitale in San Francisco has always been one of my favorites. With its closeness to the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market, its state-of-the-art 800-degree pizza oven, and its creative focus on local seasonal produce – the Italian-American eatery, despite being a “hotel restaurant” with all the prejudice inherently attached to the term, has never disappointed.

A few weeks ago, Hotel Vitale, a Joie de Vivre property, and San Francisco’s only luxury waterfront boutique hotel, announced the appointment of Josua Perez, formerly chef de cuisine, who’s been with the hotel for seven years, as Executive Chef of Americano. In his new role, Perez oversees the kitchen at Americano Restaurant & Bar and is responsible for in-room dining, and catering to meetings and special events. 

“We are thrilled to build upon Chef Perez’s impressive tenure at Hotel Vitale and Americano,” said Area Managing Director Antoine Berberi. “This is a natural development given that Chef has played an increasingly significant role in everything from menu development to event execution over the past few years.  We are excited for him to expand his influence over Hotel Vitale’s entire culinary program.”
A San Francisco native, Perez previously worked in several well-known city restaurants, including Absinthe, Firefly, and Zuni Café, where he was tutored by the celebrity Chef Judy Rodgers. 
At the Americano, Chef Perez pursues a goal of delivering a sophisticated, yet entertaining experience in both the bar and dining room with the new menu format focusing on small plates of seasonal Italian cuisine. He likes to emphasize the shift in focus in the type of dining experience Americano offers now – not only locally sourced, seasonal, and rustic, but also consistent throughout, with a great selection of bites at the bar and a fun, vibrant atmosphere at the dining room.
The recently tailored menu reflects this change in focus. There is a lot more emphasis on smaller plates that can be shared so that each diner can explore various dishes. Smaller items are also popular for the informal patio dining. At the same time, traditional salads, appetizers and several full size entrees are kept on the list.  

For an introductory luncheon today, Chef Perez prepared several remarkably seasonal dishes. He commented on the 1st course, Heirloom tomato and watermelon salad, feta, arugula, poppy seed vinaigrette. “This is a very simple salad that relies heavily on the pristine quality of its components. We waited until the tomatoes reached their best potential of the season and we will be using as many varieties as we can including cherry tomatoes such as sungolds and sweet 100's. The watermelon is cut into large cubes and the feta is cut into thick shards. These different shapes and textures create a unique mouthfeel in every bite. Because of the delicate nature of all of these ingredients the poppy seed vinaigrette is simply drizzled on top of the salad to maintain its integrity. The vinaigrette is made with Banyuls vinegar, shallot, olive oil and toasted poppy seeds. The poppy seeds add a delicate yet nuanced flavor to the salad. Banyuls comes from the south of France and has a sweet flavor similar to sherry but with a little brighter acidity. The salad is garnished with a few leaves of arugula to provide a bitter counterpoint to the sweetness of the tomatoes and watermelon. This salad replaces the avocado salad at both lunch and dinner. The lunch salad is slightly different in that it has cucumbers and croutons instead of watermelon. We did this to accommodate all the requests we have to add chicken or shrimp to our seasonal salad and that set is a little better suited to those proteins.”

The 2nd course, Skirt steak, Early Girl tomatoes, dandelion greens, herb salmoriglio seemed a little overwhelmed with salt, but had a nice array of fresh flavors from the greens and tiny tomatoes.

Between the courses, Pan roasted Padrone peppers, Fried green tomatoes with smoked onion coriander aioli, and Stonefruit panzanella were offered, with the latter being an absolute winner due to perfectly grilled peach and nectarine slices, sprinkled with olive oil and balsamic.  

The 3rd course was a crowd pleaser – Olive oil cake, peaches, honey mascarpone. I would definitely return to Americano time and again, if only for this simple yet outstandingly satisfying dessert!  Americano at Hotel Vitale is located at 8 Mission Street at the corner of Embarcadero in San Francisco.  For more information, visit www.AmericanoRestaurant.com. For more information about Hotel Vitale, visit www.HotelVitale.com and www.jdvhotels.com.
Images of Chef Perez, Hotel Vitale exterior, and Americano interior: courtesy Hotel Vitale.  

The Best Date Night in San Francisco this Month is with Buyer And Cellar

By Emma Krasov
 
Any amount of critical acclaim or word-of-mouth praising the hit comedy Buyer & Cellar now playing at SHN Curran Theatre in San Francisco doesn’t cut it. Mere words cannot describe the explosive hilarity, the poignancy, the unexpected depth of this superficially-sounding one-man romp dedicated to Barbra Streisand’s gay admirer (pardon the redundancy) who happens to work for the diva in her basement storage turned into a Paris Hotel Vegas-like mall.

The premise is too entertaining to be missed, no? Written by Jonathan Tolins, the play has won a Lucille Lortel Award and an Off-Broadway Alliance Award. I’m sure it makes a highly engaging read. But wait until you see it onstage, directed by Stephen Brackett, and performed by the one and only, supremely fit for the part Michael Urie, star of TV's "Ugly Betty," who received the Drama Desk Award, Clarence Derwent Award, the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Solo Show, and nominations for the Drama League and Outer Critics Circle Awards for originating the role of Alex More.   

An outrageous comedy about the price of fame, the cost of things, and the oddest of odd jobs is also a profound study on what it means to be talented, and how important the presence of a talented person is in our lives.
In Buyer & Cellar, the play and the actor are so perfectly matched and create such a harmonious, joyous, and meaningful experience that I’d forgo a date night to see this show.
Buyer & Cellar runs only through the end of this month, August 31, and even if you have only one night to spend in San Francisco, drop everything and go see it. SHN Curran Theatre is located at 445 Geary, San Francisco, California, 94102. For more information and to order tickets, call 888-746-1799 or visit: www.shnsf.com.
Images: courtesy SHN.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Living Legend Appears on Stage in SHN’s Motown the Musical

By Emma Krasov

A wonderful surprise was bestowed upon the viewers of the Motown the Musical opening at the SHN Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco yesterday. The true story of Motown founder Berry Gordy, the legendary record producer who launched the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson and other 20th century American music icons, ended up with the appearance of the real-life main character who presumably flew from his home in Los Angeles to meet and greet his San Francisco fans.
Berry Gordy, whose career had stretched from a featherweight boxer to the heavyweight music mogul with the creation of the Motown – the record company – came up on stage to the continuous standing ovation to share some songs and dance moves with the cast of the musical play dedicated to his legacy.
Motown the Musical, based on Gordy's autobiography “To Be Loved: The Music, The Magic, The Memories of Motown” with the music and lyrics from the Motown Catalog, premiered on Broadway in April 2013, produced by Kevin McCollum, Doug Morris, and Berry Gordy, and directed by Charles Randolph-Wright. The San Francisco production, conducted by Darryl Archibald and John Samorian, is a part of the show’s national tour, starring Clifton Oliver (Berry Gordy), Allison Semmes (Diana Ross), Nicholas Christopher (Smokey Robinson), Jarran Muse (Marvin Gaye), Leon Outlaw Jr. and Reed L. Shannon (Young Berry Gordy, young Stevie Wonder, young Michael Jackson), and a talented ensemble of other singers and dancers.  
The show runs through September 28 at the SHN Orpheum Theatre at 1192 Market St., San Francisco, California, 94102. For tickets and more information call 888-746-1799 or visit: www.shnsf.com.

Image: courtesy SHN.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Causwells: Come for Dirty Rice, stay for Chocolate Deco

By Emma Krasov, photography by Yuri Krasov

Causwells, the newly open restaurant in San Francisco, calls itself the American bistro. That usually translates into American comfort food served in an informal yet charming French-style bistro ambience, frequented by couples and groups of friends from the neighborhood, plus an occasional out-of-towner who happened to be nearby in time for dinner. Located in the Presidio Theater 1937 building, and decorated with reclaimed wood and metal, hand-made light fixtures, and gorgeous quartzite countertops, Causwells is more than that.

From its very name, scrolled in vintage font (and in gold lettering across the floor to ceiling window) to the menu – refined and marked with more creativity then your usual bistro fare – the Marina district newcomer might very well become a destination restaurant for a discerning gourmand.

Take deviled eggs from the Snacks part of the menu. Besides the classic one, in which the hard-boiled yolk is mixed with aioli, Dijon, and white pepper, the other two of the trio might contain smoked trout and avocado, or other seasonal treats.

Grilled octopus, from Small Plates, served with frisee salad, shaved fennel and garbanzo beans, and sprinkled with chili flakes, is warm, tender, and cut into plump chunks – as presentable on the plate as it is pleasing on the palate.

A bistro staple steak tartar, also Small Plates dweller, is garnished with shallots, capers, a row quail egg, and comes with garlic puree and toasts on a side.

Wild king salmon (Heartier Fare) with a delightful combination of corn and green bell peppers in brown butter sauce is grilled medium, exactly as it should be, with jewel-like brightly colored center, and crispy edible skin.   

My favorite dish, that puts Causwells on my personal culinary map, is Pilsner brined Hoffman Farms chicken breast with dirty rice and Pilsner jus. The skin-on bone-in golden-brown piece of chicken breast with a wing fragment is flavorful, perfectly roasted, and generously portioned, while the rice underneath the meat is mixed with chicken liver and ground pork for a hard-to-find-in-San-Francisco classic Cajun side.

My other gold medal winner is found in the dessert category, and called chocolate deco. In fact, I ordered a lavish buttermilk biscuit peach short cake with pickled peaches and peach brandy sauce. It was my husband, a known chocoholic, who ordered his usual – the chocolate cake. Not to diminish the glory of my peach biscuit – it was nothing short of amazing, with fluffy dough, fresh peach taste, and dreamy cardamom cream – but the moment I submitted to pressure and took a taste of the chocolate fudge cake, there was no return.

Filled with chocolate ganache and layered with chocolate sauce, the decadent golden-era confection was bathed in rich dark semi-sweet chocolate, and sprinkled with a few grains of sea salt on top – just enough to make one enamored with it. My dear husband had to remind me a couple of times that I was offered a taste of his dessert, not the entire [rather substantial] piece.

We picked Pinot Noir, Heron, 2012 from California, and Tempranillo, Ontanon “Ecologico” 2011 from Spain to complement our meal. The wine list also includes small producer labels from France and Portugal, and a wide selection of artisanal beer on draft and in bottles.  

The new restaurant is already extremely popular with the locals. When we were leaving at about 11 p.m., there were still people seated in the outside sidewalk area with drinks and snacks, waiting to get in.

The fast and impressive success of Causwells comes as no surprise with decades of combined culinary experiences of the team behind it – partners Alvin Garcia (General Manager) and Tom Patella (Wine Director) and the Executive Chef Adam Rosenblum (previously and most recently a sous chef at Flour + Water).

The restaurant design was produced by the Bon Vivants Design+Build.
Causwells is located at 2346 Chestnut St., San Francisco, California, 94123. Open Monday-Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m., and Saturday-Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m., with kitchen working until the closing wee hour. To make a reservation, call 415-447-6081 or visit: www.causwells.com.

 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Fattoria e Mare in Burlingame Serves the Best from Farm and Sea

By Emma Krasov, photography by Yuri Krasov
The recently open Fattoria e Mare in Burlingame, California, is poised to become a destination restaurant with the masterfully cooked and artfully presented food, impeccable service, moderate pricing, and sleek contemporary ambiance.  An imposingly large multi-level dining room with comfortably spaced-out tables and chairs, booths, columns, and curve-around exhibition kitchen with a clay pizza oven spread to the right from the entrance, while a big lounge area in front of a bar extends to the left. There’s no way to observe it all in one glance, but walking around is easy due to the sheer amount of space. The white-table cloth sparkling clean facility, and a team of noiselessly moving attentive servers, all clad in black, call for grandiose banquets and VIP receptions, but the place is equally fitting for a nice family gathering or a quiet dinner for two.
The ambitiously equipped and newly furnished restaurant serves Venetian inspired cuisine using the freshest Pacific seafood, local seasonal produce, and house-made charcuterie, salumi and pasta, all prepared by Chef/Owner Pablo Estrada.
Chef Estrada, 35 y.o., a native of Mexico, from an early age working with his father in the family-owned bakery, has acquired a very impressive culinary background. After he came to San Francisco in 1993 and started at Café Pescatore, he’s worked as a chef at some of San Francisco’s best known restaurants – Campton Place, Restaurant LuLu, Palio d’Asti, Red Herring, and Rose Pistola (since 1998), rubbing shoulders with the industry celebrities Reed Hearon and Laurent Manrique. His palate and sensibilities have been further refined by traveling in Europe and the Americas.

On the night my husband and I dined at Fattoria e Mare, our multi-course Italian-style menu started with Figs, burrata and sweet corn with basil sauce. This California-fresh and summer-bright dish was as pleasing to the eye as it was to the tongue, with textured corn kernels and lightly warmed figs contrasting the soft ripe cheese and silky corn puree sprinkled with sweet balsamic.  

Grilled Octopus with tomatoes and olives, presented a plate of colorful jewel-like morsels of chewy grilled tentacles, sliced ripe tomatoes, shaved cucumbers and radishes, and giant black olives.

The thin, light, and crackling on the edges, hot from the oven Rock shrimp pizza with eggplant sauce, cherry tomatoes, summer squash and fine herbs seemed pure perfection with sophisticated eggplant sauce instead of heavy marinara, and juicy shrimp, complimented with well-balanced plant ingredients.

Our pasta dish was a wonderfully picturesque bowl of Spanish-style noodle paella, even called by its original name, ‘Fideua’ toasted cappellini with clams, mussels, chorizo, sofrito, and aioli. The noodles were black from squid ink and lightly toasted, and the sofrito puree was bright-red and aromatic, while massive head-on shrimp and house-made chorizo looked your typical paella ingredients topped with aioli – true to their origin.

One of the chef’s favorite mains, Grilled Berkshire pork chop with sweet corn, farroto and pickled cherries came on a bone, perfectly grilled with red wine reduction, and garnished with some more delightful corn kernels and corn puree, plus house-pickled plump cherries that added an extra layer of tart-and-sweet flavor.        

The chef’s other favorite, Broiled dry aged featherbone steak with Sicilian spinach and black truffle butter was incredibly flavorful, juicy and tender – inarguably one exemplary steak – exactly the way it should be! 

For dessert, we enjoyed a lavish, yet refreshingly not too sweet Triple Chocolate Mousse that looked like a piece of art, sprinkled with cocoa nibs and decorated with fresh blackberries.

Then a mini stone fruit galette, topped with vanilla ice cream and strawberry was brought to our table by the chef’s young daughter, Samira, whom we watched earlier, dressed in a black uniform, scooping the preserved fruit and folding the fresh dough in a pastry corner of his kitchen.

Obviously, the success of Fattoria e Mare is rooted not only in the Chef Estrada’s genuine culinary talent, but also in the family feel and dedication that permeates the restaurant’s daily activities. In fact, the chef’s wife, also Samira, works here alongside her husband.

Jorge Palacios, the restaurant’s GM, who shares many years of working background with the chef, compiles a very satisfactory wine list of about 80 Italian and Californian labels, and also supervises the well-trained staff – mostly local hires. 

Besides the main dining room table and chairs or banquette and booth seating, and an enclosed private heated patio with fountains, the restaurant offers private dining options with a choice of four rooms equipped with audio-visual technology, a large video screen and laser projector.
Daily happy hour, 4:00 to 6:30 p.m., has special pricing on select food and beverage menu items and bar bites that are always available. There are live jazz performances by some of the Bay Area's finest musicians every Wednesday through Saturday from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. 
 Fattoria e Mare is located at 1095 Rollins Road in Burlingame, California. The restaurant is open daily with lunch served Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and dinner Sunday to Thursday from 5.30 to 10:00 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday from 5:30 to 11:00 p.m. Weekend brunch is offered on Saturday and Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Free parking. For more information or reservations, call (650) 342-4923 or visit www.fattoriaemare.com.

New York’s LUCKYRICE Festival Coming to San Francisco in September

 
Presented by BOMBAY SAPPHIRE East Gin, the preeminent Asian epicurean festival from New York is spending summer in California with LUCKYRICE Los Angeles Feast, followed by the LUCKYRICE San Francisco Feast at the Bently Reserve on September 5, hosted by Top Chef Masters Winner, Chris Cosentino.

This is the fifth anniversary for the LUCKYRICE Festival, which tours five cities this year, including New York (May 2014), Los Angeles (Aug 7), San Francisco (Sep 5), Las Vegas (Oct 16) and Miami (Nov 14).
The LUCKYRICE Feast will present an evening of innovative Asian-styled dishes paired with cocktails from SF's brightest star chefs and mixologists. Each imaginative dish will be paired with modern Asian-inspired cocktails by BOMBAY SAPPHIRE East, the official spirit of the festival, to highlight the unique flavors of each culinary creation. The chefs reflect the diversity of Asian food experiences in San Francisco – whether iconic Chinatown favorites, celebrity-chef driven concepts or local interpretations of traditional dishes.
“We are excited to bring the Feast to Los Angeles and San Francisco, which is home to every conceivable type of Asian cuisine and culture, from creative Pacific-rim dining to street food,” said LUCKYRICE Founder, Danielle Chang. “With California’s large Asian population, brilliant dining culture and proximity to Asia, Asian food is everyday grub.

The LUCKYRICE Feasts bring together dozens of chefs and mixologists, serving up authentic night market street food, innovative chef-driven dining and cocktails galore – all re-imagined through a locally global lens that spotlights each city’s exploding Asian food revolution.
“BOMBAY SAPPHIRE's sponsorship with LUCKYRICE has been exciting and inspiring,” said Ned Duggan, VP, and Managing Director for BOMBAY SAPPHIRE Gin. “It's been a thrill to see, and taste, how bartenders in each of the LUCKYRICE cities put their own spin on BOMBAY SAPPHIRE East cocktails by using different techniques, flavors and ingredients. To see cocktail culture growing and witness consumers' reactions to each imaginative creation year after year has been very rewarding.”

Participating bars and mixologists include: 15 Romolo, Ian Adams; Elixir, H. Ehrmann; Liholiho Yacht Club, Kevin Diedrich; Dirty Habit, Brian Means; Novela, Suzie Robinson; Chino, Danny Louie.
Participating Restaurants: Asian Box; Attic; Azalinas; Butterfly; Chino; Dirty Habit; Dosa; E&O Asian Kitchen; Ginger Café; Hog & Rocks; Kin Khao; Kainbigan; Le Colonial; M.Y. China; Paula LeDuc Fine Catering; Soy Vay; Spice Kit; Tacolicious.

LUCKYRICE produces the annual festival to shine a spotlight on Asian culture through cuisine in America. From its home base in downtown Manhattan, the company works with hundreds of chefs and restaurants as well as corporate and culinary partners to bring the diverse worlds of Asian culinary culture to global-minded North American consumers. LUCKYRICE Culinary Council includes: José Andrés, Daniel Boulud, Anthony Bourdain, Floyd Cardoz, David Chang, Susur Lee, Anita Lo, Masaharu Morimoto, Pichet Ong, Zakary Pelaccio, Eric Ripert, Marcus Samuelsson, Angelo Sosa, Albert Trummer, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Sang Yoon.
BOMBAY SAPPHIRE, the fastest growing premium gin in the world, is created with a unique combination of ten hand-selected botanicals that are sourced from around the globe. Nearly twenty-five years since the introduction of BOMBAY SAPPHIRE, BOMBAY now looks East for the launch of its newest product and continues its creative and ever-evolving approach to gin-making.  Thai lemongrass and Vietnamese black peppercorn, the two new featured botanicals in BOMBAY SAPPHIRE East, awaken the palate and transport the senses to the Asian countries that inspired this exotic, modern gin. The brand’s global essence and signature vapor infusion process impart a refined and perfectly balanced taste, versatile enough for both classic cocktails and exotic recipes. Infused with imagination, BOMBAY SAPPHIRE East is a symbol of the exploration of worldly and sophisticated lifestyles. For more information, go to: www.bombaysapphire.com.
LUCKYRICE SAN FRANCISCO is happening on Friday, September 5 from 7-10pm at the Bently Reserve, 301 Battery Street, San Francisco, CA 94111. VIP: $150 (Early Entry), GA: $88. For more information and tickets, visit: www.luckyrice.com.
Images courtesy LUCKYRICE and BOMBAY SAPPHIRE. 

Eat Drink SF: New Name, New Home

By Emma Krasov, photography by Yuri Krasov

 
 
 
  
 
 
 
Changing its name from SF Chefs to Eat Drink SF, the San Francisco’s largest and most popular annual food and drink festival relocated to the aptly named Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason this year – a more fitting and much more spacious facility than the [previously beloved] White Tent on Union Square.

In its fifth year, the major and ever-expending food industry event was presented by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, a non-profit trade association founded in 1936 to promote, extend and protect the interests of the broader restaurant industry, and to serve their members in the San Francisco Bay Area. The public was invited to experience tastes and flavors from the finest chefs, mixologists, brewers and wine experts in an epic foodie festival weekend at the beginning of this month.

A traditional pre-weekend Thursday night party, held at the majestic Westin St. Francis in the heart of San Francisco on Union Square, this year was titled Bar Crawl, and presented inspired combinations of hand-crafted cocktails and creative bar bites from the distinctive Bay Area venues: Bar Agricole, Bocadillos, Bull Valley, Roadhouse, Ciccio, Farmshop, Gialina & Ragazza, Hopscotch, Maven, Nido, Oenotri, Perbacco, Piperade, Range, Spoonbar, The Abbot’s Cellar, Town Hall.

The Lexus Grand Tasting unfolded at the Festival Pavilion, as always, on the first weekend of August (Friday-Sunday) featuring over 200 of San Francisco's finest restaurants, bars, distilleries, breweries and wineries displaying their finest creations. The event included cooking and pairing classes, demonstrations, tastings, competitions, and branched out into parties and an industry intensive day with plenty of delicious things to taste, try, and learn.

One of the Saturday tasting events, Meet My Mentor: An Homage, was dedicated to the presenting chefs’ mentors – be it a grandma in a family kitchen, a favorite teacher in a culinary school, or a celebrity chef in a famous restaurant.  

Paying homage to their professional beginnings with signature dishes inspired by their culinary mentors, the presenting chefs were coming from some of the Bay Area's best restaurants including: 1300 on Fillmore, Ala Romana, Anzu, Bartlett Hall, Café Claude, Campton Place Restaurant, Canela, Copita, Dirty Habit, E&O Asian Kitchen, Gaspar Brasserie, Gitane, Mayfield Bakery & Cafe, Millennium, MKT, Oola, Pizza Antica, Pizzeria Delfina, Poggio Trattoria, Ristobar, Rose Pistola, Scala's Bistro, Schroeder’s, Scoma's, Souvla, The Farmer and The Fox, The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards, The Starlight Room at Sir Francis Drake Hotel, The Village Pub, and Twenty Five Lusk.

San Francisco – a city of new food and wine trends, progressive food politics, and the sustainability movement – is supported by a community of farmers, winemakers, spirits distillers, culinary artisans and independent restaurant chef-owners, and enjoys the natural bounty of Northern California orchards and vineyards as well as the rich fisheries of the Pacific Ocean.

Eat Drink SF supports a number of local Bay Area food-related charities, including the Center for Education About Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA), Meals on Wheels, Share Our Strength, SF-Marin Food Bank, Slow Food San Francisco’s NOMAD gardens project and the Golden Gate Restaurant Association Scholarship Foundation. For nearly fifty years, the Foundation has granted financial scholarships to students from the Bay Area entering culinary and hospitality programs. The applications are reviewed by the Scholarship Foundation Board of Trustees. Qualified candidates are then interviewed to complete the selection process. The Trustees base awards on the financial needs of the student. The goal of the scholarship program is to allow students to continue their education, and to select those motivated individuals who need the most financial assistance to enable them to pursue their education.

More information at: www.eatdrink-sf.com